A few weeks ago, my ten-year-old son asked if I was the tooth fairy. “What makes you think that,” I asked. “I found a secret supply of gold glitter which looked just like fairy dust.”
Oops. Guess it’s time to find better hiding places!
It seemed like the right time to share the truth with him. After the tears dried and sadness subsided (mine and his), he asked, “So, is Santa real or are you Santa too?”
Learning the truth about Santa Claus is a milestone towards adulthood. It’s a big step towards growing up. And while I was around my son’s age when I found out about Santa, I wasn’t sure my son was ready. Heck, I wasn’t sure I was ready.
Santa Claus is the symbol of childhood innocence. The big red guy resides in a place where fantasy and reality intermingle. Uncovering the truth can cause those worlds to separate. Learning that Santa Clause isn’t real can be a difficult transition for children and parents alike.
How to Break the News that Santa Claus isn’t REAL
#1: Let your child initiate the conversation. Instead of saying, “It’s about time you learned the truth,” or “You’re old enough to know…”, let your child come to you when they are ready. Keep in mind, many children already have an idea about Santa; they just like to keep the tradition going.
#2: Be truthful and considerate. Blurting out, “Yep, I’m Santa. It’s been me the whole time. I’m sooo glad I got that off my chest,” may be truthful, but there is a better way. Share the history of the real St. Nick and how you enjoy keeping that joy and magic alive.
#3: Be empathetic. Put yourself in your child’s place. What would you need from someone if you were in his or her situation? How would you feel? Angry or betrayed? Confused or worried? Now, consider what your child needs from you. If your child feels lied to, give him or her easy-to-understand examples, such as how you kept daddy’s birthday party a secret to surprise him or how you played pretend or dress up because it made everyone happy. Also, be sure to give hugs, time and space. Children are great healers.
#4: Don’t make your child feel wrong or discount their feelings. Avoid saying things like, “That’s life. You’ll learn many things are not what you think they are,” “I’m surprised it took you this long to figure this out since so many younger kids already know” or even “Get over it. I’ve heard enough from you about Santa Claus.”
#5: Keep Santa as part of your holiday tradition. Once your child knows, don’t jump off the Santa Claus bandwagon. Reassure him or her that holidays will still be special. Let them continue believing in the magic. Children often find comfort and acceptance in playing along with you. So, put out the cookies, track Santa on Christmas Eve and yes, have Santa presents under the tree.
Santa may not be “real,” but he does live. Santa is the jolly bearded man at the mall listening to the children’s holiday wishes. He is the red-suited woman ringing the bell by a donation bucket. He is the mom and dad who sneak downstairs after the kids have gone to sleep to put treasures under the tree. He is the joy and wonder of twinkling lights on Christmas Eve and the excitement of discovering a half-empty glass of milk and cookie crumbs on Christmas morning.
Santa Clause is the spirit of kindness and giving – something that lives in each and every one of us. And that is very real.